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Psychological Abnormality

behaviour, speech, or thought that impairs the ability of a person to function in a way that is generally expected of them, in the context where the unusual functioning occurs


Mental Illness

used to convey the meaning as psychological abnormality, but it implies a medical rather than psychological cause


Psychological Disorder

specific manifestation of this impairment of functioning as described by some set of criteria established by a panel of experts



1) scientific study of psychological abnormality
2) problems faced by people who suffer from disorders


5 principles of establishing a criteria for abnormality

1) Statistical concept
2) Personal dysfunction
3) Personal distress
4) Violation of Social Norms
5) Diagnosis by an expert


Statistical concept

behaviour is considered abnormal if it occurs infrequently in the population


Problems with statistical concept

1) not all infrequent conditions are viewed as abnormal
2) no guidance on how rare a condition must be


Personal distress

if the condition causes distress, it is abnormal


Problems with personal distress

1) not all psychological disorders cause personal distress
2) distress is a universal phenomenon but we do not all have a mental illness
3) not all distress is abnormal


Personal dysfunction

when the condition interferes with appropriate and adaptive functioning


Problems with personal dysfunction

1) definition of "appropriate"functioning
2) exceptions to the rule for harmful dysfunction and evolution
3) value judgement inherent in "harmful dysfunction" approach


Violation of Social Norms

condition is abnormal if it violates social norms


Problems with violation of norms

1) not all violations of social norms are diagnosable conditions ex. terrorists
2) cultural norms must be considered


Diagnosis by an Expert

a condition exists if an expert says it does


Problems with diagnosis by an expert

1) important to know who the experts are - not all mental health professionals are trained to diagnose mental illness
2) arguments that mental illness is a construct made up by mental health professionals to keep people "in order"
3) arguments that anyone can be diagnosed with anything if you look in the DSM hard enough


Stone Age

believed that causes of mental illness was due to supernatural causes and demonic possession and treatment involved exorcism, magic, incantations, supernatural treatments



first man to reject supernatural causes of mental illness, focused on natural causes - brain dysfunction and argued stress could influence mental functioning


what is a humour? what are the 4 humours? treatment

- disturbances in bodily fluids
- excess blood - cheerfulness
- excess yellow bile - ill temper
- excess black bile - gloom
- excess phlegm - restlessness
- treatment: healthy lifestyle - induce bleeding/vomiting



- emphasized socio-cultural influences on thought and behaviour
- believed was not supernatural causes


what did hippocrates believe about dreams?

- thought dreams were important in understanding why a person was suffering from a mental disorder


why did plato believe about dreams?

suggested that dreams served to satisfy desires because the inhibiting influences of the higher faculties were not present during sleep



- agreed with theory of 4 humours
- denied influence of psychology in abnormal behaviour - focused on biology
- advocated for humane treatment



- humane approach to treatment, created sanitoriums - temples where priests cared for people with mental illness


Rejection of Hipproacates' views

methodism: mental illness as a disorder that resulted either from a constriction of body tissue or from a relaxation of those tissues due to exhaustion
treatment: natural bloodletting, ex. menstruation, haemorrhoid
- believed no difference between physical and mental disorders



- continued Hippocrates' work
- believed two sources of mental disorders: physical and psychological
- compassionate care
- believed in warm baths rather than stressful procedures
- talking a sympathetic listener


Arab World

- continued the Greek/Roman tradition of compassionate care
- created units to ouse the mentally ill in 800AD
- Avicenna - emphasized natural causes of mental illness including environmental and psychological causes, used early principles of behaviourism in treatment


Europe in Middle Ages

- some belief in naturalistic causes/treatments for mental illness
-return to supernatural beliefs about mental illness
cause= demonic possession,treatment = exorcism
- mentally ill cared for by clergy



- rejected idea of supernatural forces or excess bodily fluids as causes of mental illness
- St. Vitus' dance - treated with early form of hypnotism


Johannes Weyer

- rejected supernatural causes of mental illness
- believed mental illness has natural causes
- advocated natural and physical treatment


History 1500AD onwards

- people advocated for protection of mentally ill and considered natural causes of mental illness
-St. Vincent de Paul - asylums were created
- Teresa of Avila - advocated for mentally ill